“We are seeing enormous growth in the demand from both our local and multinational client base for media advisory services,” said Scott Kronick, Beijing-based president of Ogilvy PR in China. She will work across Ogilvy PR’s practice groups to provide a media training and coaching product.
The timing of her appointment left little doubt about why companies in China need advice and coaching to deal with journalists and the public in the mainland. Over the past week, French companies like Carrefour and LVMH Group have found themselves the target of a boycott by angry Chinese.
Mainlanders are retaliating against France because protesters in Paris attacked a handicapped Chinese torchbearer, Jin Jing, a Paralympic fencer who has become national hero and a symbol of anti-Chinese actions in the West.
Ms. Chen, a 40-ish Beijing native, has worked in PR companies in China, Hong Kong and the U.S. for 14 years, starting at American Express in Beijing and Hong Kong. In 1993, she joined Burson-Marsteller in Beijing, and 10 years later she moved to Edelman Public Relations, where she was most recently director of its corporate practice in Beijing.
French companies are not the first to come under attack in China. Japan's Toyota Motor Corp. and the American consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble have had similar problems in the mainland in recent years, as digital media such as internet blogs and bulletin boards and mobile phones make it easy for Chinese to coordinate their efforts.
Ms. Chen spoke with Normandy Madden, the editor of AdAgeChina, about tactics companies can use in China to minimize the repurcussions of a boycott or other attack on their business.
AdAgeChina: In less than a week, a Chinese call for a boycott went from targeting Carrefour to all French companies. Did that surprise you?
Lucy Chen: I wouldn’t say it surprised me, especially looking at past incidents. Chinese react quickly. It’s not the government [behind this boycott], it’s people. The internet makes this [kind of fast reaction] possible. Also, it demonstrates that news is not constrained to just one environment anymore. Anything that happens anywhere in the world can instantly become global.
AdAgeChina: What is the best course of action for companies such as Carrefour this week that suddenly find themselves on the front line of a media crisis?
Ms. Chen: I don’t want to comment about Carrefour but looking at problems in the past, the problem wasn’t bad communication, it has been a lack of communication at all. The best course of action is always coming out quickly and publicly with the company’s position.
That’s why they need to be better trained for these situations. A crisis is not something you can prepare for after a crisis starts. You need to prepare in advance.
AdAgeChina: Your new job at Ogilvy PR is chief media trainer. It’s a position that was just created. Why is there increasing need for media training in China?
Ms. Chen: There is more need now, because China’s economy is growing and becoming the center of global attention. Also, more Chinese companies are expanding overseas and becoming publicly listed. Just having a good product is not good enough anymore. People want to see top management is out in front of the media to give their shareholders confidence. That means they need to have more exposure in local and international media.
Top management of any corporation today needs to be media-trained and crisis-trained anyway, so when [a crisis breaks out] they can come out very quickly to tell their stake holders and their consumers about their position. That’s what stakeholders and consumers expect now.
AdAgeChina: How does China compare to other countries in terms of how consumers hold marketers accountable for their products and actions? Are there any major differences?
Ms. Chen: I don’t see any fundamental differenes but I have noticed that many consumers in more developed countries are more likely to seek justice through the legal system. In China, they go straight to the manufacuter or to media with a problem.
AdAgeChina: What about Chinese journalists -- is the quality of reporting, and the experience and integrity of the reporters, getting better?
Ms. Chen: I’ve seen really big changes in the quality of journalists and the overall professionalism of the industry here. It’s definitely getting better. Many journalists in China are really young and may not be as experienced as their counterparts overseas. But the trend is that the quality is getting better and standards are getting higher. Titles like 21st Century are better now at investigating tough topics thoroughly and reporting all sides of an issue. I see that as the trend.
Other appointment news in Greater China
[shanghai] Leo Burnett Worldwide’s marketing services arm, Arc Worldwide, has appointed Susan Goncalves in Shanghai as management supervisor for McDonald’s in China. Previously, she was account management director at Leo Burnett’s office in Seoul, where she also worked on the McDonald’s business. She succeeds David Moore, who has returned to the U.S. Arc has also promoted Lou Knowles in Shanghai to client services director from group brand director.
[taipei] BBDO Worldwide has appointed Winnie Chang as creative director of its office in Taipei. Previously, she held the same position at Toplan Marketing Communication, but she has held senior creative positions at other networks in Taiwan such as Ogilvy & Mather, JWT, Euro RSCG and Young & Rubicam.